Friday, March 12, 2010

The Practice and Profession of Freemasonry

Last night was the third consecutive night of Official Visits in the District.  I know that it was a lot to ask of the Officers and I thank them for answering the call.  Worshipful Master Sam Harper conducted a fine meeting.  At age 87, Sam has taken up the helm in his Lodge for the second time.  The first was 1978.

After the meeting closed, we presented 50 Year Emblems to two Brothers, one 60 Year Wreath and a long (20 years) overdue 25 Year Award.  A beautiful evening indeed.

I was called on for remarks and offered what follows.

The Practice and Profession of Freemasonry

One must be something to be able to do something. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There’s a story that has been told about a young boy and some starfish. You see, every so often there is a perfect combination of tide and wind and current that causes unusually high numbers of starfish to wash up onto beaches around the world.

It was on one of those days that an old and wise man decided to take a walk on the shore to clear his mind and think. A little way ahead of him, he saw a young boy constantly stooping to pick something up and throw it into the ocean.

As the old man approached, he could see it was the starfish that the boy was so focused on.  He stopped and asked the boy, “Why are you spending so much time throwing those starfish into the ocean?”

“You see sir, the tide is going out and these starfish will be stranded and die. I’m trying to help,” said the boy.

“But my dear boy, there are miles of beach and hundreds, maybe even thousands of starfish here. Why waste your time when what you’re doing can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy, not missing a beat, picked another starfish up and with all his might, tossed it far out into the waves. As it hit the water with the splash, he looked to the old man and said, “It sure makes a difference to that one.”

Too often in life, we go along unaware of our actions and what kind of affect they have on others. With the cynicism that sometimes comes as we leave childhood and become men, we can easily begin to look at the big picture as hopeless instead of focusing on the specifics like that little boy.

We must be ever mindful that what we do as Masons may not have immediate impact on society as a whole, but it does impact individuals. Perhaps each of those individuals, touched by a kindness or spurred to goodness by a Mason decides to pay it forward. Soon, change happens on a greater scale, blossoming, in a perfect world, exponentially.

We are admonished at the opening of every Lodge meeting to “apply ourselves with zeal to the practice and profession of Freemasonry.” What is the practice and profession of Freemasonry? And how can we apply that to being a 21st Century Mason? We need look no further than the rest of that charge for the answer.

We must seek wisdom, for no man who is wise can be anything but good.

We must be united; for when people strive to work and agree, the load is lessened for all. Conversely, without consensus, the going is challenging at best.

We have been charged this year to do something that we’ve never done before. I say that with a wink, because I think if we’re honest, we will admit we’ve done it for years. Under Grand Master Sturgeon, we can now ask good men to be a part of our great Fraternity. There are stories of sons that have waited years for their fathers to ask them to join the Fraternity only to find out much later in life that they were supposed to make the inquiry themselves. It was always seemed a little like “double secret probation” to me. You only learned that you were supposed to seek membership once you sought membership. Well, that’s no more. We can now tell our friends, “Hey, you are the kind of man that should be a Mason.”

We’re even going to make it easy for these men. On October 30th, there will be a One Day Masonic Journey. Men who don’t have free evenings, men who work second shift and those who truly don’t have the time to join in the usual way can now become Masons. Making them want to stay after they join – that’s your job. Bring them to a Lodge that is active, fun and contributing to a better community and they will stay. They may realize that things they used to find important just aren’t when compared to the transformation he sees in himself as he matures as a man and Mason.

Some may grumble, “Well, that’s not the traditional way. He should have to wait a month between Degrees, like I did.” Well you know what, that isn’t the traditional way either. It used to take up to three years between Degrees. I imagine that our Masonic ancestors, if they were here, might complain that you and I didn’t really do it the traditional way either.

The point is that we must be united. We must realize that today’s Masonry needs to adapt to today’s culture if it is to remain relevant. Use the brochure as a way to open a door for a young man. Support the One Day Journey. It might not be your cup of tea, but we’re charged to be united, so unite.

We are told to be happy and contribute to the happiness of others. There are limitless ways that we can do that. Through our Lodge Community Service Projects, we can beautify our neighborhoods, help families in need and give back to the communities that we call home. Acts of Kindness that we have always done serve as outward symbols of the care and love that our Craft have toward all mankind.

What about promoting the useful arts and cultivating the moral virtues? We must mentor our members and tell them of our history. We must explain the value of adorning our minds and inspire them through the tales of the great Masons who have shaped the world. To help a man soar intellectually is the best gift you can give, for an educated mind is a free mind.

Nowhere is it more important to teach virtue and morality than to our young boys and girls. Building strong foundations of morality, teaching good judgment and empowering our future leaders to be all that they can be is an indispensible part of our mission to make the world a better place to live. Remember, one must be something to be able to do something. Giving fifty cents per member to the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation is one of the points of the Renaissance. I urge you not to stop there. Give more. If you can’t afford more money, give of your time. Bring them to Lodge to exemplify their ritual, ask them to help with your fundraisers, most of all, become their friends. Be the role models that are lacking in our society.

Thoreau said “In the long run men only hit what they aim at.” I charge you tonight to aim high. Aim not for mediocrity, but aim for the stars. Let the practice and profession of our Noble Art be your singular focus. Do all in your power to meet the Grand Master’s challenge to bring Masonry to the 21st Century so that your children, grandchildren and men of good character in generations to come can continue to be a part of something so sublime.

So mote it be.

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